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Veterans visit Hellfire Pass for Remembrance Day.

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Minister for Veterans' Affairs Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence

Friday 4 November 2005 VA198


The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, De-Anne Kelly, today announced a commemorative visit to Thailand for Remembrance Day, as the culmination of events held throughout 2005 to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Mrs Kelly said the visit would commemorate and honour the service and sacrifice of Australian prisoners of war who toiled, suffered and died at Hellfire Pass and other parts of the Burma-Thailand Railway. It would also provide an opportunity for Australian veterans to see the site as it stands today.

"Four representatives of the Australian ex-prisoner of war community will take part in the visit, led by the President of the Repatriation Commission and Secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Mark Sullivan," Mrs Kelly said.

"The veteran party will be: Fred Hodel, National President of the Ex-Prisoners of War Association of Australia; Cyril Gilbert OAM, National Secretary of the Ex-Prisoners of War Association of Australia; Bill Flowers, Victorian State President of the Ex-Prisoners of War Association of Australia; and Roy Whitecross, President of HQ 8 Division Association.

"The veteran representatives will visit sites of wartime significance including Chung Kai War and Kanchanaburi War Cemeteries, before spending a day at Hellfire Pass.

"The group will also have the opportunity to attend a Remembrance Day service at Hellfire Pass."

Mrs Kelly said the visit was an appropriate close to the 2005 commemorative year and recognised Australia’s ex-prisoners of war and their important place in the ex-service community.

"About 62 000 Allied prisoners of war and 9500 Australians were forced to work on the Burma-Thailand Railway during World War II. More than 10 000 Allied prisoners, including approximately 2650 Australians, died," Mrs Kelly said.

"This commemorative visit pays tribute to those who worked on the railway during World War II and honours their sacrifices," she said.

Mrs Kelly said the commemorative visit was also a timely opportunity for leaders of the Australian ex-POW community to witness the efforts already under way to protect Hellfire Pass as a memorial to those who served on the Burma-Thailand Railway and provide an opportunity for consultation about the site.

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The commemorative group will leave Australia on Monday 7 November.

Media contact: Craig Clarke 0417 889 423